“Ronnie, Ronnie, wherefore art thou, Ronnie?”
I’d fully expected the crowd in the courtyard of Juliet’s House in Verona to fall silent and stare up at me, but once all eyes were on me, I felt a bit daft.
I was standing on Juliet’s balcony, the scorching sun beating down. Exactly where Ronnie had told me to be… but he was nowhere to be seen.
My thoughts drifted to the previous summer…
“The terracotta balcony was added in 1936, long after Shakespeare wrote Romeo And Juliet,” our tour guide explained, flicking her flaxen hair over her shoulders. “And it seems Shakespeare never did visit Italy.”
“Oh for goodness’ sake,” I muttered. Despite my romantic past being practically non-existent, I believed there was magic there, and didn’t want anyone ruining it for me.
I drifted towards the messages scrawled on the walls by thousands of lovesick visitors.
At that point I realised, with relief, that I wasn’t the only incurable romantic on the planet.
After a while, I headed for Juliet’s statue. I pushed past some excitable teens and touched Juliet’s right breast, as I’d heard along the Italian grapevine that it made you lucky in love.
“Bring me some luck,” I whispered.
Someone coughed, and I turned to see a man peering at me through round rimmed glasses. He looked rather like a thirty-year-old Harry Potter, and his smile was wide and friendly.
“She must get pretty fed up with that,” he said with a laugh.
I pulled my hand away from the brass statue.
“I guess so,” I stuttered, feeling myself turn scarlet.
“I’m Ronnie,” he said. “I saw you on the coach.”
“Yes, yes, I saw you too,” I said far too quickly. I tended to scan coaches for other solo travellers, wondering if they were as lonely as I. Although Ronnie was alone, he didn’t appear lonely at all.
He’d got on the coach at Lido di Jesolo, and sat next to an elderly lady. I was in the seat behind eavesdropping as they shared travel stories, and it wasn’t long before she was offering him one of her mint imperials.
I’d desperately wanted to speak to him, but found myself shying away when he smiled as we stepped from the coach.
He was from a different world to mine. I’d picked up that he was a professor of literature, and his parents were both court judges.
Although well read, I was an admin assistant, and my parents were solidly working class.
“Do you believe in the legend of Juliet’s statue?” he’d said, following me towards the tiny gift shop.
“Not really,” I lied.
“I do,” he said. It caught me off guard.
I suddenly noticed he’d left his bag by the statue. I pointed towards it, and he dashed back.
“I’m always forgetting things,” he said.
An absent-minded professor, I thought with a smile.
Quickly we found ourselves in deep conversation, and as it turned out, we had lots in common – particularly the ability to make each other laugh.
We ended up spending a perfect fortnight in Italy together – sharing a gondola in Venice, and a day on Lake Garda.
I’d never been so happy…
Back in the present, the crowd quickly began chattering once more, forgetting my outburst from the balcony.
I looked down one last time, searching for Ronnie, and suddenly spotted him dash into the courtyard and drop down onto one knee.
He opened a small box. Everyone spread out, giving him space.
“Julie,” he called. “Will you marry me?”
“Yes, yes, yes!” I yelled, and turned to run down the stairs towards him. Within moments I was in his arms and the crowd was cheering.
Ronnie and I had spent every moment together since last summer. It hadn’t mattered that we were from different worlds – love could conquer all.
He’d surprised me with tickets to return to Verona – ever the romantic – and earlier that morning as we shared a coffee, he’d suggested it would be romantic if I called his name from the balcony.
I never dreamed it was going to be his way of proposing.
Absent-minded as ever, he’d ended up leaving the ring in the café and had to dash back for it. That’s why his proposal was a little on the late side.
It didn’t matter. There was magic in that little courtyard in Verona after all.
Enjoy a new holiday-themed short story from our archives every Monday and Thursday during August